Category Archives: American Democracy

Trump Isn’t The Only Problem – Part 4

Published / by Stephen

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More from Robert Reich:

Why We Must Get Big Money Out of Politics

The most important thing we must do to save our democracy is get big money out of politics. It’s a prerequisite to accomplishing everything else.

Today, big money continues to corrupt American politics – creating a vicious cycle that funnels more wealth and power to those at the top and eroding our democracy.

In the 2018 midterm elections, wealthy donors and Super-PACs poured millions into the campaigns of the same lawmakers who voted to pass the 2017 tax cuts, which gave them huge windfalls.

Consider conservative donors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, whose casino business received an estimated $700 million windfall, thanks to Trump and Republicans’ tax cuts. The couple then used some of this extra cash to plow more than $113 million dollars into the 2018 election, breaking the record for political contributions by a single household.

That’s not a bad return on investment – for them.

All told, almost 40 percent of total contributions in the 2018 midterms came from people who donated $10,000 or more. Yet these mega-donors comprise a tiny 0.01 percent of the U.S. population.

Read on

To Preserve Democracy – America’s New Year’s Resolution

Published / by Stephen

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America’s New Year’s Resolution: Remove Trump

After his first bizarre year, his apologists told us he was growing into the job and that in his second year he’d be more restrained and respectful of democratic institutions.

Wrong. He’s been worse

Republican members of Congress must join with Democrats to get this task done as quickly as possible. Nothing is more urgent. It must be, in effect, America’s New Year’s resolution

Read on for why …

Trump Isn’t The Only Problem – Part 3

Published / by Stephen

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While much of the country was focused on Donald Trump’s shocking victory in the presidential election two years ago, Republicans in North Carolina were attempting a brazen power grab. After their nominee — the sitting governor — lost re-election in November 2016, Republicans in the state decided to weaken the governor’s office. The state legislature passed two bills stripping the governor of some powers, and the outgoing governor, Pat McCrory, signed them.

eeIn doing so, McCrory and his allies rejected the peaceful transfer of power that is essential to democracy. They instead chose the peaceful transfer of some power.

In 2018, it became clear that this problem extended beyond North Carolina. Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan followed the same strategy. Perhaps the most chilling aspect is that Trump had nothing to do with these power grabs. Most of the leadership of the Republican Party in each state decided that their overriding goal was partisan power.

Click the link above to read the article

Trump Isn’t The Only Prolem – Part 2

Published / by Stephen

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Trump isn’t the problem. In fact he might be the wake-up call. At least that is what Paul Krugman argues:

THE G.O.P. GOES FULL AUTHORITARIAN Only Trump’s flamboyant awfulness stands in the way of his party’s power grab.

The full Krugman post follows:

Donald Trump, it turns out, may have been the best thing that could have happened to American democracy.

No, I haven’t lost my mind. Individual-1 is clearly a wannabe dictator who has contempt for the rule of law, not to mention being corrupt and probably in the pocket of foreign powers. But he’s also lazy, undisciplined, self-absorbed and inept. And since the threat to democracy is much broader and deeper than one man, we’re actually fortunate that the forces menacing America have such a ludicrous person as their public face.

Yet those forces may prevail all the same.

If you want to understand what’s happening to our country, the book you really need to read is “How Democracies Die,” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. As the authors — professors of government at Harvard — point out, in recent decades a number of nominally democratic nations have become de facto authoritarian, one-party states. Yet none of them have had classic military coups, with tanks in the street.

What we’ve seen instead are coups of a subtler form: takeovers or intimidation of the news media, rigged elections that disenfranchise opposing voters, new rules of the game that give the ruling party overwhelming control even if it loses the popular vote, corrupted courts.

The classic example is Hungary, where Fidesz, the white nationalist governing party, has effectively taken over the bulk of the media; destroyed the independence of the judiciary; rigged voting to enfranchise supporters and disenfranchise opponents; gerrymandered electoral districts in its favor; and altered the rules so that a minority in the popular vote translates into a supermajority in the legislature.

Does a lot of this sound familiar? It should. You see, Republicans have been adopting similar tactics — not at the federal level (yet), but in states they control.

As Levitsky and Ziblatt say, the states, which Justice Louis Brandeis famously pronounced the laboratories of democracy, “are in danger of becoming laboratories of authoritarianism as those in power rewrite electoral rules, redraw constituencies and even rescind voting rights to ensure that they do not lose.”

Thus, voter purges and deliberate restriction of minority access to the polls have become standard practice in much of America. Would Brian Kemp, the governor-elect of Georgia — who oversaw his own election as secretary of state — have won without these tactics? Almost certainly not.

And the G.O.P. has engaged in extreme gerrymandering. Some people have been reassured by the fact that the Democratic landslide in the popular vote for the House did, in fact, translate into a comparable majority in seats held. But you get a lot less reassured if you look at what happened at the state level, where votes often weren’t reflected in terms of control of state legislatures.

Let’s talk, in particular, about what’s happening in Wisconsin.

There has been a fair amount of reporting on the power grab currently underway in Madison. Having lost every statewide office in Wisconsin last month, Republicans are using the lame-duck legislative session to drastically curtail these offices’ power, effectively keeping rule over the state in the hands of the G.O.P.-controlled Legislature.

What has gotten less emphasis is the fact that G.O.P. legislative control is also undemocratic. Last month Democratic candidates received 54 percent of the votes in State Assembly elections — but they ended up with only 37 percent of the seats.

In other words, Wisconsin is turning into Hungary on the Great Lakes, a state that may hold elections, but where elections don’t matter, because the ruling party retains control no matter what voters do.

And here’s the thing: As far as I can tell, not a single prominent Republican in Washington has condemned the power grab in Wisconsin, the similar grab in Michigan, or even what looks like outright electoral fraud in North Carolina. Elected Republicans don’t just increasingly share the values of white nationalist parties like Fidesz or Poland’s Law and Justice; they also share those parties’ contempt for democracy. The G.O.P. is an authoritarian party in waiting.

Which is why we should be grateful for Trump. If he weren’t so flamboyantly awful, Democrats might have won the House popular vote by only 4 or 5 points, not 8.6 points. And in that case, Republicans might have maintained control — and we’d be well along the path to permanent one-party rule. Instead, we’re heading for a period of divided government, in which the opposition party has both the power to block legislation and, perhaps even more important, the ability to conduct investigations backed by subpoena power into Trump administration malfeasance.

But this may be no more than a respite. For whatever may happen to Donald Trump, his party has turned its back on democracy. And that should terrify you.

The fact is that the G.O.P., as currently constituted, is willing to do whatever it takes to seize and hold power. And as long as that remains true, and Republicans remain politically competitive, we will be one election away from losing democracy in America.

 

Trump Isn’t The Only Problem

Published / by Stephen

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As of late, from an American Democracy point of view, the political system been going down some very bad paths. Robert Reich explains.

10 Steps to Save American Democracy

Trump isn’t the only problem. As Big Money floods our political system, and some in power are intent on making it harder for certain people to vote, we need a movement to save our democracy.

Here are 10 steps:

Number 1: Make voter registration automatic for all eligible voters, using information they’ve already provided the Department of Motor Vehicles or another government agency. This has already been implemented in several states, including Oregon, and it works.  In 2014, over 1 in 5 Americans were eligible to vote but did not register. Automatic registration would automatically change this.

Number 2: Pass a new Voting Rights Act, setting uniform national voting standards and preventing states from engaging in any form of voter suppression, such as voter ID laws, the purging of voter rolls, and inaccessible and inadequate polling places.

Number 3: Implement public financing of elections, in which public funds match small donations – thereby eliminating the advantage of big money.

Number 4: Require public disclosure of the sources of all political donations. Much of that is now secret, so no one is held accountable.

Number 5: End the revolving door between serving in government and lobbying. Too often, members of Congress, their staffs, cabinet members and top White House personnel take lucrative lobbying jobs after leaving government. In turn, lobbyists take important positions in government. This revolving door must stop. It creates conflicts between the public interest and private greed.

Number 6: Ban members of Congress from owning specific shares of stock while they’re in office. Require that they hold their investments in index funds, so they won’t favor particular companies while carrying out their public duties.

Number 7: Require that all candidates running for Congress and the presidency release their tax returns so the American people know of any potential financial conflicts of interests before they’re elected.

Number 8: Eliminate gerrymandered districts by creating independent redistricting commissions. Some states – Arizona, California, Michigan, and Colorado, for example – have established non-partisan commissions to ensure that congressional maps are drawn fairly, without racial or partisan bias. Other states should follow their lead.

Number 9: Make the Electoral College irrelevant. The presidency should be awarded to the candidate who receives the most votes. Period. States should agree to award all their Electoral College votes to the winner of the popular vote by joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

10 and finally: Fight for a Supreme Court that will reverse its Citizens United decision, which interpreted the First Amendment to prevent Congress or state governments from limiting political spending.

Follow these 10 steps and begin to make our democracy work again.